From the Participants to “Bridge the Streams” and the Dutch Premiere of Running Dry


On 8 March 2006, the interactive meeting Bridge the Streams took place at the Dutch Water Museum, including the Dutch Premiere of the film RUNNING DRY. The 40 participants from the various sectors of society – including the public and private sector, NGOs and civil society – together identified the following key approaches to confronting the world water crisis:


1.  We need to regain contact with and thereby respect for our surroundings – both human and environment, of which all of us are part and depend upon.

•  Water and Humankind: The human population of the earth needs to respect its environment and also balance the unequal allocation of available resources. Population growth, unlimited use of water per person, extreme demands of water by agriculture and industries, and unequal distribution of water need to be addressed. There is more to life than our Western scientific ideas. We need to restore our ‘green planet’, and thereby its water systems.

•  Climate and Water: Climate and climate change are decisive upon our future and that of mother Earth. We need to stimulate eco-centric thinking instead of an anthropocentric attitude toward such actual world problems.

•  Water and Biodiversity: Ecosystem diversity and its (worldwide) conservation are crucial, also to biodiversity. Biodiversity is part of sustainability and strongly connected to (the quality of) water. Conservation of nature in developing countries with participation of local communities needs to be balanced with a sustainable development.


2.  The value of water is to reflect the balance between its ecological, social and economic value, without a bias towards any of these pillars of sustainable development.

•  Water and Health: Access to clean water for basic needs is a human right. Without water no life – human life, nature, economy; emphasise the ecological, social and economic benefits of clean water. Water can take many shapes, including therapeutical ones.

•  Respect for Water: The spiritual and ecological value of water emphasises that we are one with the earth; awareness among people of this fact will stimulate respectful treatment of the earth and its waters. Water connects and unites us all. For all life on earth, we need to limit our use of substances such as perfume, paint and fertiliser and stimulate less intensive water consumption by e.g. vegetarian food.

•  Economy of water: Corporate Social Responsibility requires measures such as construction of buildings in a water saving manner. Except for basic needs, the price of water in developed countries needs to increase drastically– as does the price of gas and electricity. Environmental and social consequences need to be reflected in water economics, including block-pricing mechanisms that discourage water use beyond sustainability. All production and trade in the end rely upon and must function within a proper social and ecological structure.


3.  Communication and education are the keys in increasing awareness of the value of water, the water crisis and possible solutions.

•  Education on Water: Education is to simultaneously stimulate ecological, economic and social-cultural development. Education is the key to creating a broad social basis for sustainable development of water and to create awareness on the consequences of our behaviour, which is to result in a change in attitude when alternatives are facilitated. Spirituality and awareness of our connection with the greater whole can further stimulate this change.

•  Communication on Water: We need to communicate thoroughly with the public on each water policy and implementation. Also, communicate the value of water always and everywhere: view the earth as one system, connecting all elements. Transfer of knowledge is to include our mistakes in order to prevent repetition and enable us to learn from them.

•  Participation: Participation includes listening to each other, and an emphasis on the role of women; also, a balance between involvement of community, private sector and public sector is required.


4.  It is time for action! We know the problem and are communicating it to others together with possible solutions and will continue to facilitate solutions.

•  Willingness to Contribute: People are willing to act and also to pay for the sustainable development of water. This includes the provision of adequate water systems and services such as sanitation and waste treatment, using sustainable technologies such as recycling and organic treatment. As can be shown by the US and Europe, technological solutions are only part of the solution. Moreover, people need to be able to rely upon the responsible use of available means. The Dutch bodies of government responsible for water management (Waterschappen) have their own elections, collect their own water taxes and spend it only on water services; they could function as a model for long-term solutions.

•  Think Globally, Act Locally: Democratic policies, a local approach to water issues and local management are to be preferred. This includes stimulation of small scale projects and local environmental initiatives, tailor-made implementation with community ownership and gender sensitivity. A bottom-up approach is needed to successfully stimulate the process of increasing awareness of people, and its reflection in policies. In addition, a global approach to world water issues is needed when it comes to issues such as the unequal allocation of water and climate change.

•  Integrated Approach: An integrated approach and people’s involvement and commitment require a transformation of responsibility and opportunities into action and bringing together various opinions. For example, sustainable banking includes acting as a critical stockholder in reviewing a company’s water policies. Bringing together all sorts of knowledge is needed to create awareness such as of interrelationships between the use of energy and warm water, water use for production of computers, side effects of waterpower, effects of over-consumption, and the spiritual relation between water and energy. This is to stimulate a change of focus from problem to cause, enabling prevention of problems that are more difficult to solve.


We are willing to act in order to stop our wasteful use of water, which contributes to hunger and complicates peace-processes, and to stimulate awareness on the value of water.


Although awareness might be a first condition, action also requires alternatives in the use of water. We strongly appeal to the participants of the Fourth World Water Forum to take the next step, and substantially contribute to the creation of an environment that enables further action.


We also sincerely want to thank Jim Thebaut, the maker of Running Dry, for making this great film that stimulates us in our actions and helps us in communicating the world water crisis, and for his willingness to convey our message to the Forum in Mexico.



On behalf of the participants,



Marianne van As

Antoinette Hildering

Lies Visscher

Dutch Water Museum

MeerKeuze / MultipleChoice

Living with the Earth